South Carolina Supreme Court Opinion

125px-SCSupreme_CourtSealOn Wednesday, August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court published one opinion: Protestant Episcopal Church v. Episcopal Church, was an appeal arising from a circuit court order holding that the Appellants have no legal or equitable interests in certain real and personal property located in South Carolina and enjoining the Appellants from utilizing certain disputed marks and names, the S.C. Supreme Court reversed the circuit court order as to 29 parishes and affirmed as to the remaining parishes.

The Court held, inter alia, that: (1) the circuit court erred in allowing itself to become entangled in the questions of which competing claimant was the true successor of the Lower Diocese. TEC has recognized the Associated Diocese to be the true Lower Diocese of South Carolina with Bishop vonRosenburg as its head; therefore, a civil court cannot inject itself into this church governance dispute and reevaluate that decision applying state principles because this is a question of church polity, administration and governance, matters into which civil courts may not intrude; and (2) it would reverse the injunctive relief granted by the trial court.

The Court found that in light of the evidence of confusion created by the Respondents’ use of the term ‘episcopal,’ with TEC’s federally-registered trademarks, which include “The Episcopal Church” and “The Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America,” state law dictates that the Appellants’ right to these marks is superior and that therefore, the Respondents’ state marks must be cancelled.

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